The idea of never having to go to the gas station again is an appealing one — think electric, exhaust-free cars whisking you around a city that is suddenly just a bit less smoggy. But the latest attempt to disrupt how we fuel our rides is not the battery packs of Tesla, or even the self-driving cars of Lyft, rather it is a spate of new companies that promise to drive the gasoline to you. Startups with names like WeFuel, Booster Fuels, Filld, and Yoshi have begun popping up in the last year, and, according to The Guardian, it's a development that not only has at least one state official worried about potential safety risks, but has the SFFD asking vigilant citizens to report the fuel-delivery services to authorities.
The companies all work on a variation of the same theme: Via app, or a meter attached to your car, you either signal when you want a refill or your car does it automatically when the tank gets low. The company then sends a truck your way, and an attendant fuels your car while you're at work, the gym, or wherever. The "wherever" bit is apparently part of the problem.
“Some of the [companies] are using 1,000-gallon tanks,” Greg Andersen, division chief of the California office of the state fire marshal, explained to the paper. “If they’re going into the basement parking lot of a high rise, that actually is a large concern.”
SFFD Lieutenant Jonathan Baxter also expressed some concerns about the mobile mini-tankers, noting that there are currently no official safety regulations in place. One day there might be, but at present they don't exist. “We are not saying that we are not ever going to permit this,” he explained. “We are saying that we are working with other state agencies to figure out what is going to be best.”
Until that happens, however, The Guardian reports that "Baxter is asking members of the public to report any fuel delivery trucks they observe to the department for inspection, corrective measures and possible violations."
The companies are obviously sensitive to this critique, with Filld CEO Chris Aubuchon telling the paper that his trucks have two fire extinguishers, and that “We have carefully studied the legal requirements, operate within them, and serve our customers in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
And as is the norm with many companies trying to disrupt some established market, the startups hoping to deliver you gas may be a bit disdainful of existing market regulations. However, unlike laundry startups or food delivery startups, these newest players in the game are lugging around tankers full of combustible material. Maybe those regulations are there for a reason, and disrupting them might not be the best idea after all.